Magnificent Old Tree to Come Down in Theodore Roosevelt Park

By Carol Tannenhauser

A towering, century-old American elm tree, standing inside Theodore Roosevelt Park at 80th Street and Columbus Avenue, will be taken down on Thursday, April 11th, starting as early as 7 a.m.

The day before the scheduled removal, a group of neighborhood residents and representatives from the Parks Department and Friends of Roosevelt Park gathered beside the tree, as Kevin Wyatt, a board certified master arborist, delivered his prognosis.

“This tree I list as ‘in imminent risk of failure,’” he said. “It has absorbed a lot of structural damage over the years. It’s got hollows and huge cracks. Once the foliage comes out, the next wind could just separate the whole thing. It would be a tragedy should anybody be anywhere near it. The tree needs to come down sooner than later.”

“This is a 911 not a 311,” said Peter Wright, president of Friends of Roosevelt Park.

This week, the Parks Department closed a portion of the path near the Nobel Monument, which is near the tree and a favorite climbing place of children. On Thursday, the path that travels north/south through the west side of the park will be closed for the day, as will the temporary asphalt path that runs directly by the elm. The sidewalk will remain open, as will the main path that runs east/west through the park, parallel to 81st Street.

“We lead from a risk-management perspective,” said Crystal Howard of NYC Parks. “We don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way. This is a huge tree in a highly trafficked area.”

Three other, smaller trees were also determined to be structurally unsound and will be removed in the coming weeks. These actions are unrelated to the Museum of Natural History’s planned Gilder Center.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 27 comments | permalink
    1. ITreeWhatYouDidThere says:

      “These actions are unrelated to the Museum of Natural History’s planned Gilder Center.”

      Hmmmm hmmmmmm…

    2. The W. 80th St. Block Association/Billy Amato says:

      Last week when the winds were quite high I was standing near the Elmtree on the path and I did hear a snap/jerk in the tree and I did bring it to the attention of Park officials at Roosevelt Park.
      The parks department was extremely fast on roping the area off from harm to the kids and parents that play in that area.
      It’s unfortunate that we’re going lose that tree. I grew up with that tree the last 52 years and it’s twin before Hurricane Sandy took it down.
      The two Elm trees were like family to me the 4 seasons a year. Right at my front door, it was like living in the woods. It will be definitely messed.

      • Georgian says:

        I to Billy will mourn. I have not lived in the neighborhood as long as you have and experience the love of our most shaded adult trees in this neighboring park of our most wonderful neighborhood with thanks to you and the W. 80 St. Block Association.

    3. Christine E says:

      Thank you for your shade over the years, Mr Tree. I do hope your wood will live on in another form.

    4. michael says:

      Is it a result of all the dangerous chemicals from the Gilder Center construction? They said this was going to happen. Oh, we should have listened to them…. we should have listened!

      • Don’t be ridiculous says:

        You Are Rumors – There are no dangerous chemicals in the park… the tree is almost 200 years old and has raccoons living in them and completely hollow out and was cracking:splitting at the base of the tree. Of course sooner or later it was going to come down.

        • michael says:

          Humm… you are probably be right.
          But, maybe it’s a result of all the people walking down the paths? You know, every step shakes the ground a tiny bit. That tiny bit adds up and could (in theory) be deleterious to the tree’s stability. Also, the dog barking in the dog run. Their barking probably scared the raccoons and drove them into the trees. Maybe the whole area should just be fenced off? 🙂

          • Mattw81 says:

            Michael – Have you been taking your medication properly? Are you for real ?

            • michael silverman says:

              Lol. I was simply making a point. I recall the initial NIMBY opposition to the expansion being one about “the trees”. Then it morphed into concerns about “the congestion of people.” And then it refocused to the “dangerous toxins as a result of the construction.”

              I am saddened by the loss of a big beautiful elm. Its creation in my mind is a miracle. Its death, equally so. It will return back to its original state and the NYC parks department will replace it for later generations to take pleasure in.

              I was simply pointing out that even those who don’t want change, for whatever reason, have to deal with it – one way or another

      • EricaC says:

        Elm trees (all trees) get old and die. It happens. It seems plausible in this case that it is just old. I (like you) have no direct knowledge of this tree in particular, but it has happened to other old trees I know well. It is terribly sad, but part of the cycle of life.

        • tim says:

          Agree. New trees will (hopefully) be planted, grow and thrive; provide shade, define seasons and give us memories.

          • IT’S YOUR PARK says:

            Yes – there will be many new trees planted in that area of the park once the science building is completed. A number of juvenile trees and Low line trees/flowers and bushes a-like will also be planted. It’s going to be an awesome new entrance to the new Teddy Roosevelt public park for all our new generation to enjoy.
            Good new changes are coming.

    5. ST says:

      Thanks Helen Rosenthal.

    6. Ye Olde Englishe Teachere says:

      Re: “The two Elm trees were like family to me …. it was like living in the woods. It will be definitely MESSED.”

      Ooopsie…you meant MISSED, didnt-ja??

      Re: “….Mr Tree. I do hope your wood will live on in another form.”
      Better: Mr Tree. I do hope your wood WOULD live on ….
      And since Elm trees (like so much else these days)are gender-neutral, why not call it by its name….ELMER.

      • Robin Perry says:

        Run, people! Here comes the grammar police to nitpick us all to death instead of focusing on what people are trying to express about this beloved tree.

        What a joy you must be to spend time with, Ye Olde.

    7. ira k says:

      It would be lovely if some “hobbyists” could get some if the tree so it can live on in their creations.

    8. Paul Taylor says:

      If this tree fell in the forest, and not Columbus Ave, no one would give a darn.

      • Phil Ossified says:

        Yes, but Wood…sorry…Would…it make a sound if no one were listening?

        • Paulie says:

          This stupid comment always gets me going. The definition of sound is waves in a media, either water or in this case air. That someone would even consider that sound doesn’t occur because a human is not hearing it is pure hubris.
          Do you also think things you cannot see don’t exist, hat a infant’s perception of the world.

          • Cato says:

            — “The definition of sound is waves in a media”,

            “Media” is a plural noun; you cannot correctly say “a media”. In your zeal to correct another commenter, you should have written that sounds are “waves in a medium”, or perhaps “waves in media”.

            To avoid incurring your wrath by using yet another time-honored old saw, I won’t say anything about “casting the first stone”….

          • Evan Bando says:

            “The definition of sound is waves in a media, (you mean, medium) either water or in this case air.” But that definition does not mean those waves make a sound unless there is a receptor like the human ear to convert it. After all, there have been radio waves enveloping the world since the dawn of time but were cavemen and the dinosaurs able to hear them? No. They would have had to wait until 1896 when Lee De Forest created the receptor, that is, the radio, to convert those waves into sound.

    9. bill says:

      I am a member of the American Association of Woodturners, and I hope that this elm can be repurposed into hundreds of bowls, platters, and lidded boxes by the local turners in NYC.